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      Blog :: 02-2015

      Decoding Boston's Most Intriguing Property Buzzwords

      BOScommon1As spring slowly but surely creeps in to our snow-striken city, more and more listings will be coming up, ready to be taken by willing buyers who have been on a standstill waiting out with their wallets this winter. And as homebuyers flock back to market - not to say they've left, but mostly went on hibernation - there are a couple of words you'd be wisely informed about when it comes to available properties out there, especially for those of you who are going house hunting this spring.

      As a prospective buyer, descriptives of properties alongside their photos, are almost always the deciding factor before you plan to attend an open house or schedule a showing with your broker. And, for better or worse, property descriptions are also the first barriers in your buying thought process, with some properties listing features that seem "just too good to be true" or are a flat out embellishment of the truth behind what's actually offered.

      But of course, there are exceptions - properties that are worth the look and certainly worth your while, you just have to know how to read between the lines and sometimes take the property's description as it is and be prepared to pay the premium for it. And so, to help you in your path to real estate knowledge, we present to you the "truths" behind listed features you've been obsessing about in those brochure write ups.

      1. "Pet-washing room"

      Let's not pretend there is something inherently pet-friendly here. Isn't this just a room with a sink? Admittedly, it's convenient to keep Fluffy's wet fur away from your toothbrush, but is such an amenity really going to lure you to one building over another? Perhaps. But this feature is definitely new to market though, and not a lot of buildings offer them yet. That's not to say it'll be coming soon to more developments in the coming years.

      2. "Zen garden"

      If you must call this patch of grass and two rocks a "garden," then fine. But does it need to be Zen? Can it be a "pocket garden"? That seems like something most people would be more likely to appreciate. All kidding aside though, there are quite a few brownstones out there that offer such an amenity, having converted a small patch of their patio or outdoor space to an urban garden that's good enough to plant flowering seeds on, or at least good enough to bring some green into a concrete space.

      3. "Near transit"

      By now, everybody knows that being close to the T is important. It's also something of a given in Downtown Boston, as there are bus and train stops in almost every stretch of the city's neighborhoods. So unless the property listing you're looking at is not within the metro area, then you're most likely to see this feature repeated a hundred fold in your search. Have a car that you take everywhere? Then leverage a property's proximity to public transport and find out whether there is parking attached to the home you're interested in - or at least a garage that can house your car during inclement weather.

      4. "Yoga room"

      Again, it's just a room. In all honesty, unless it is a dedicated space just for doing yoga, then this should actually read: "one spare room". Increasingly however, more and more luxury developments are including yoga and reflection rooms in their footprint to offer residents a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Take for example the Watermark in Kendall or North Point in East Cambridge. These developments have gone all out on offering "dedicated spaces" for extra convenient living. Classes are held in them, too, so you won't have to worry about who'll guide you through your meditation poses.

      5. "Loft-like"

      So is it a loft or not? When this phrase is invoked, it usually means, "this is your typical condo with slightly higher-than-average ceilings, for which you will pay a premium." Rarely found in newer developments, these "loft like" units are usually located in the South End, where most buildings have been gentrified and converted into lofts. If you see this feature on a brownstone listing, be prudent in asking before scheduling a showing if the property is actually a loft or just has elevated ceiling heights; only then will you actually know if it's a look-a-like or the real thing.

      6. "Laundry in the building"

      Again, on its face this is a wonderful thing. The reality, though, is that there's no guarantee the facilities will be well-maintained, available, or downright easy to access. Beacon Hill brownstones are notoriously known for offering laundry in their buildings, only to greeted with a sub-basement room with two washers and dryers for all to share. Some you even have to pay for and schedule use. Make sure to check this feature out when you do a tour of the property, since only then will you verify how "laundry-friendly" the place really is. Keep that in mind and hedge your expectations next time you see this instead of "in-unit laundry" listed on a property.

      7. "Gourmet kitchen"

      This, if you're not already aware, is the epitome of embellishment. Some properties just would like to take it to the next level and think putting a stainless steel toaster makes the kitchen counters gleam with gourmet greatness. A real gourmet kitchen will feature modern appliances as well as a disposal and granite counters. Not to mention cabinetry that has enough space to suit all of your kitchenware.

      Thankfully, most Downtown Boston listings have gone through renovations and improvements that "gourmet kitchen" isn't just a fancy term thrown around. A lot of properties on sale do have this feature alongside redone bathrooms. But be also aware that eat-in kitchens are also common in a city like ours, so don't be turned off if that's the case since it's the norm anyhow (or so that's the case for rentals).

      8. "Alcove studio"

      Only in Boston is a minor architectural feature not only touted but sought out enough that its existence incurs an extra cost--hundreds of dollars more a month, based on our experience. An alcove studio is just a roomier studio, one with a small, added area that's un-bordered by a door. Alcove studio also tend to border to one-bedrooms, except that technically the alcove can't be called that since there's no window to completely classify it as such. One thing that does bode well for these types of properties: open layout and space, space, space in the middle of the place.

      In doubt about any of the amenities you've seen posted on a property? Get in touch with us now and we'll find out exactly what it is for you! Call (617) 505-1781 and schedule a risk-free consultation.

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      Rental Rates Soar Amidst Snowy January, Affordability On The Spotlight

      BOSFeb25After gaining significant ground on single-family home sales in January, a review of Boston's rent prices in the same month indicate that rental rates in the city were up 4.6 percent from a year ago, this according to data provided by Zillow.

      Boston's median rent last month was $2,149, compared to the national median, which was up ?3.3 percent to $1,350. The same study also found that home values in Metro Boston reached an average of $365,000, up 3.2 percent compared to the prior year.

      With this continued pace of growth, many in the real estate industry are pointing to a more robust growth in rent compared to home values this year. This is perhaps the compelling reason why investors are prompted even more to purchase property to turn into profit-making machines.

      The ongoing uptrend in rental rates have some advocates concerned over rent affordability since current lease averages are pricing more renters away from the city, with a vast majority of Boston neighborhoods experiencing a resurgence in rentals in the past five quarters - with an outlook for an additional two more years before finally leveling off.

      Most experts agree that the primary cause for the sudden steep increases in rent could be attributed to only one factor: supply. The "shortage" of quality and affordable rental units in the market is causing more people to either look elsewhere or contend with what's available. And though there are some developments up for delivery in the coming months, most of them are luxury rentals that the middle class cannot afford.

      Boston Neighborhoods Framed Back Bay South End Beacon Hill North End Allston Brighton Brookline Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIREIn fact, rental rates have increased twice as fast as wages in the city did in the past decade, leaving little or no room for the middle class man's pocket to catch up with the rising rental tide, and in effect affecting their homeownership plans as more of their discretionary income goes into rent and away from their dream downpayment fund.

      Currently, residential rental buildings in Boston are required to have 13 percent of its total number of rental units built with affordability in mind. This however, also has a "loophole", as developers can opt out from the regulation by paying the city  $200,000 (per unit designated affordable unit) towards a fund for affordable housing.

      The city, on its part and since 2012, placed on fast track plans to replenish the city's inventory with a goal of building 53,000 new units of housing by 2030, with a third of those units branded "affordable". Of this total, 8,000 are being built at the moment, with delivery dates ranging in the next 6-12 months. Officials are hoping this somehow eases the gridlock, and drive the cost of renting down - admirable aspirations that might not see the light of day until 2017 when more developments are expected to be delivered.

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      Single-Family Sales Jump Double Digits In January

      BOSnow2It seems no amount amount of snow could keep buyers away in January, as sales of single-family homes in Boston jumped to its first high this year, signaling strong buyer demand despite the bout of blizzards that have continuously hounded and pounded the city, especially towards the end of the month in discussion. Let's take a look at how Boston faired in the first month of the year this Monday morning:

      Double Digit Growth in Single-Family Sales January 2015 proved to be a great start to the year for single-detached homes, producing a total of 56 closed sales or an increase of 14.3 percent compared to the same period last year. Buoyed by only a modest increase in median prices, Boston saw a reversal of the decline of single-family home sales in the last quarter of 2014.

      Median prices for single homes in the city increased by 3.4 percent to $434,250 compared to $420,000 in the same period last year, giving way to the affordability index by only a half point, making it easier for first-time homebuyers to get in the acquisition game.

      To no one's surprise, inventory is still lagging behind demand, shrinking by 37.5 percent compared to the same period last year, accounting for a total of only 110 units at the end of the month. Without a fresh source of new listings, this accounts for only 1.3 months of supply in the marketplace - perhaps the lowest it has been in a while, and is proof that the market has significantly turned into a seller's arena.

      Yet, despite the slim pickings of properties available, buyers seem to also take their time deciding whether to put in an offer as the average number of days a single-family takes to be off market climbed by 20 percent, clocking in at 78 days from listing - 13 more than last year's 65 days in January.

      Condo 'Shortage' Continues To Clip Sales What strides single-family homes made in January seems like the opposite for condominium properties in the city, with the number of total closed sales dropping 23.7 percent compared to the same period last year, reflecting an additional drop of 10 percent compared to last December's sales figures. Total number units that sold last month stood at 187 units, compared to last year's 245 condos.

      The median price increased also only slightly by 3.7 percent, a figure comparable to the rise of single-family homes. The average price of a condominium unit in the city is now pegged at a flat and even $500,000, reflect a rise of $18,000 from January 2014's $482,000.

      Dropping at a more acceptable rate than single-family homes, condominium inventory decreased by 19.7 percent to 411 available units in the city at the end of the month, a 100 units off last year's 512. This makes the total months of supply only a percentage point better than single-family homes at 1.2 months if no refresh is made, which of course, is not going to be the case.

      One salient factor that differentiates the sales behavior of condominiums to single-family homes is the fact that buyers seem more motivated in putting in offers as evidenced by the fact that the average number of days it takes to sell a condo in the city has decreased by 10.7 percent to 53 days, compared to January 2014's 64 days. This, despite the onslaught of snow we've seen towards the end of the month makes it logical to think that showings of condo units are less hampered by weather factors, as building developments edge out single-family homes in this aspect.

      Forward On To Forecasts in 2015 January's real estate figures show a marketplace that is in a volatile position, balancing buyer demand and availability. From forecasts, this will be the central theme the whole 2015, as more and more developments still play catch up to Boston's ever-rising appetite for acquisition. In fact, in an attempt to infuse much-needed supply, there are more projects on the pipeline this year than the city has seen in the past 8 years. Some will deliver once the spring and summer selling season is in full swing, but most won't be ready for occupancy until late next year, giving sellers the opportunity to unload their assets.

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      How To Avoid These 5 Tax Mistakes New Homeowners Make

      BOSnowFew people look forward to tax season, and when you're a new homeowner, filing can be even more work. Suddenly, you have new forms to fill out and more potential for making a mistake.

      But taxes aren't really all that bad. A key thing to be thankful for is that New Homeowners get more tax benefits than renters. And if you can avoid these five common mistakes, you'll survive tax season and see just how much you actually can shave off your total.

      1. Not tracking your home improvement expenses

      If you bought a fixer-upper and you've put money into improving your home, you should be keeping a detailed record of your expenses.

      Some home improvements--like installing energy-efficient features or building an entrance ramp--may qualify for tax deductions. Other home improvements won't qualify for an immediate tax deduction, but they can help you when you sell your home.

      Under the home sale exemption, home improvements increase your basis in your home, which lowers the taxable amount of your sale price. The exemption can save you money, but you'll need receipts and records to prove you made upgrades in your home.

      2. Using the home office deduction incorrectly

      The home office deduction is complicated and can get the attention of the Internal Revenue Service, potentially resulting in an audit.

      To avoid mistakes, get a tax professional's help or opt for the new simplified home office deduction. This deduction allows you to skip the complicated aspect of the home office deduction like calculating office space.

      3. Filing the wrong year

      Many new homeowners mix up the dates. Several taxing authorities are a year behind on taxes. This means, for example, when you file in 2015, you're actually filing for the 2014 tax year. If you choose the wrong year, you could end up filing the wrong amounts and that may lead to a lower-than-expected refund or even an audit.

      4. Deducting your full escrow balance

      If you've been putting money into escrow throughout the year, be careful with how much you deduct on your taxes. Many homeowners simply list their full escrow balance, but not all of your funds in escrow are used to pay taxes.

      Before you file, contact the escrow account manager and find out the exact amount of taxes paid from your escrow, then list that amount.

      5. Not itemizing

      If you've been working one job and renting for years, you've likely been able to file your taxes using the simplest form, the 1040EZ. But opting for the simple form once you're a homeowner could cost you.

      Homeowners receive a host of tax deductions and benefits that might lower your tax obligation and increase your refund, but you'll have to file a long form to get most of those benefits. If you aren't sure which is the better deal, ask a tax adviser for help.

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      Local Realty Market Unabated Despite '4th Worst Weather City' Ranking

      aerial, Boston, MABoston might have been recently named the '4th Worst Weather City in the US' by folks over at Zillow, but don't let that fool you: buyers are still in hot pursuit of your property. You read that right. Despite the more than eight feet of snow in the streets, Boston's real estate market is still going strong, closing sales and even putting offers these past few weeks.

      Surprised? Don't be. That's because buyers, investors, and everyone else who's on the prowl for property these days obviously don't just look at weather when making their purchase decision - there are multiple factors that impact a buyer's course of action - and surely weather is just one of them. The point being, bad weather doesn't automatically equate to a poor real estate market. In fact, amongst the 25 major metropolitan cities that Zillow surveyed, Boston ranked 4th worst and is the only one on the 'Top 5' thats' due to cold weather - all others belong to the list due to their "extremely warm summers".  "Good Weather" was then defined as an aggregate number of dry days with no rain or snow, as well as having temperatures from 55 to 75 Fahrenheit.

      Boston, according to the study, has only 73.6 "pleasant days" in a year, 126 rain or snow days, as well as 97.7 days of below-zero temperatures and 12.5 days of sweltering 90 degree summer days. Making up for these facts however, is Boston's strong tech, education, and biomedical industries and the jobs they help, create that nourish the city's real estate appetite.

      THE TOP 10 WINTER WINNERS, SNOW OR NO SNOW

      To give everyone a level property playing field, we've taken a look at historical trends to find out if the Boston real estate market does get affected by severely strong fluctuations in weather. Our findings? A definite no.

      2005vs2015 Top10

      If you look at the areas most affected by the recent winter onslaught of snow, the property values, median price, as well as absolute sales numbers, have clearly stayed strong. Extremely strong, in fact - with the least growth pegged at 23 percent for Winchester. That means properties are still almost a fourth above their 2005 price levels, 10 years post. Clearly, even if there have been indications of worrisome weather, buyers are still opting to go with their gut that Boston is a great place to invest, and we won't argue that.

      We will however argue, that if you have a property that you're thinking of putting on the market - or just plainly looking what you can get so you can move to a winter-free home - now is the time to really give it a good thought. Property prices, like the piled up snow, might get diluted once inventory is back up again, leaving you with no escape from winter wonderland.

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      Snowy February Buries Condo Inventory, Price Increases Remain Stable

      Feb5-3After being pounded by bouts of blizzards and winter storms week after week, we're all agreed that we're all sick of the snow. Tremendously. Sadly, we're not the only ones it seems, as early February figures show an unusual dip and retreat in the condominium inventory within the city. To fully understand how wide the gap is in between the past three years, 2015's January and February condo for sale listings is more than half of what it was in 2013.

      What about 2014? Well, last year reflected a modest dip compared to 2013 as well, however due entirely to seasonality and actual number of new developments going up, as most that were delivered and finished construction were rental community units. We've made a pictograph for you below to fully appreciate the decline in inventory for the period of January 23 - February 11 across 2013-2015.

      Inventory Pictograph

      You'll see that if they were buildings, it would comprise of the Prudential Center Complex such that 2013 would be equivalent to the Prudential Tower, 2014 would be 111 Huntington Avenue, with 2015 being the shortest of them all.

      So, if you're a seller, you're probably thinking this time really isn't the best time to list. You're partially right, but overall wrong. Condominium prices have steadily increased since last year, in thanks partially to dips in the inventory as well as the influx of investors snapping up what's available on the market. Just take a look below at how the different neighborhoods in Boston have been performing

      Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 2.46.56 PM

      Needless to say, if you are thinking of unloading, the snow might be scary for now, but it will melt, and you would be glad to have your unit listed and up by then. Listing now affords you the attention you want against a "dry well" of condominiums, as well as the time you need for investors to find your property once their out buying again.

      David Paez has been successfully in the business of buying, selling, and renting homes for over seven years. He is actively aiding willing sellers in disposing their investments. List your home now and reap the financial rewards! Call David at (617) 549-9783 and schedule a no frills risk-free consultation and find out he can get you the most return on your investment.

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      The Single Most Compelling Reason To Divest Right Now

      2There's no doubt that if you're someone who's contemplating selling your property, you're probably on the fence on whether you should list your property now - or wait until the heaping piles of snow have been thawed out to give prospective buyers a better opportunity to visit, inspect, and consequently offer a deal for your property. But, believe it or not, we're recommending that you list it as soon as you can. Why that is, we'll discuss below.

      Let's start out with the city's skyline. If you've peeked outside your window in the last couple of months, you've surely seen the bevy of new deluxe residential towers that are taking shape on the Boston skyline. It's been a while since most Bostonians have seen this much construction cranes downtown - perhaps it was in 2006 or 2007 that the city saw this much action on the residential side. Sufficed to say, there has been no shortage of buildings going up however, they are mostly rentals. Only a few scattered projects have sprouted up here and there catering to buyers looking for brand new luxury residences.

      Millennium Tower Rendering 12-3-14And while two major new condo towers -- Millennium Tower and the Four Seasons -- are now under construction, they won't be open until 2016 and beyond. That means a tough couple years for buyers looking to snag a (luxury) condo in Boston, with soaring prices and fierce competition for the few listings on the market.

      Obvious to most, it's an incredible tight market out there. New residential projects are on the way, but these towers - from Fenway all the way to Seaport and back to Back Bay won't be fully constructed and delivered before 2017 or 2018. In fact, the number of condos on the market downtown is almost miniscule. Just two dozen units are currently up for sale out of a total of 2,180 in the 18 most expensive condo buildings in Boston.

      Across Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, West End, Theater District, Fenway, and the Seaport, the number of listings has fallen below 300, or less than a month's supply. Typically a market is considered balanced when there are six to eight months of unsold condos on the market.

      fourseasons1Meanwhile, the new, 61-story Four Season tower, which just started construction near the Christian Science Plaza by Prudential Center, won't do much to help with the current inventory crunch in the short-term. The new 60-story Millennium Tower is farther along, with the new high-rise slated to welcome its first residents in the summer of 2016. Even so, already half of the towers 422 multimillion-dollar units have already been pre-sold, leaving just a couple hundred condos still up for grabs, and they're mostly top-tier penthouse multi-room units that not nearly everyone can afford.

      Other new condo towers are also likely in the works, but still in the early planning stages. Among new projects in the early stages are plans for a 31-story "skinny tower" on Tremont Street facing Boston Common, with each condominium having an entire floor - that, as well, is for the deep-pocketed investor.

      The shortage of condos for sale, in turn, is helping keep prices moving steadily higher. In those high-end downtown neighborhoods, condo sales of $1 million and up increased nearly 50 percent in 2014 through early November, according to analysis extracted using MLS.

      With all of this, it is clear that condominium real estate is a commodity with high demand. There is no doubt the more inventory there is, the less price pressure there will be. But for now, the condo shortage reigns supreme and sellers are winning out the game. And that's why we recommend to sell and list now - snow or no snow.

      David Paez has been successfully in the business of buying, selling, and renting homes for over seven years. He is actively aiding willing sellers in disposing their investments. List your home now and reap the financial rewards! Call David at (617) 549-9783 and schedule a no frills risk-free consultation and find out he can get you the most return on your investment.

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      How To Prep And Clean Up Your Home Before & After A Boston Blizzard

      B8ZBwrBCAAUWoVM.jpg-largeHowever and whatever you want to call the bout of blizzards that have hit the Northeast over the past week that's dumped historic levels in just one week, it's with sad tidings that we assume that winter is not quite over yet. What does this mean? More homeowner-related headaches such as frozen pipes, power outages, and even blown-away shingles or siding.

      Here are some of the things that can happen to your home in a blizzard, and ways to prepare for the worst.

      1. FROZEN PIPES

      When water freezes, it expands, and this can put a lot of pressure on your pipes. If the pressure becomes too great, your pipes can break - a messy and expensive issue.

      You can sometimes figure out whether your pipes are frozen by turning on a faucet. If only a trickle of water comes out instead of a steady stream, they might be on their way to frozen. If this happens, keep your faucet on while applying heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad, portable space heater, or hair-dryer. Once the water pressure is restored, stop applying direct heat and keep your faucet on at a trickle.

      Pipes most susceptible to freezing are those exposed to extreme cold, like water supply lines in unheated areas like a basement, attic, garage, or crawlspace..

      It's a good idea to notch up the temperature on your thermostat a little higher than you normally would. Sure your heating bill might be a higher, but you could help keep your pipes warm and avoid a far more expensive problem in the long run. And if you have a garage, make sure your garage door is closed to keep the cold air from freezing any water supply lines.

      If you want to take extra precaution, consider installing products like "pipe sleeves" or "heat tape" on any exposed water pipes, which you can buy at any hardware store like Ace or Home Depot. Think of it as a little sweater for your pipes. Even a little bit of newspaper can help with insulation.

      2. POWER OUTAGE

      We in the Northeast know by now that with heavy snow, comes power cut off. You should be prepared for potential power outages during the storm and in the days following. With up to 30'' of snow already piled up, it's quite likely that power company crews will have a challenging time reconnecting you to the grid.

      Other than making sure trees near power lines are well trimmed, there isn't a whole lot you can get your energy service provider to do before a blizzard.

      There are some steps you can take to stay safe - and sane - if power does go out:

      Turn your refrigerator to its coldest settings to preserve your perishable foods. Try not to open your refrigerator and freezer doors much to keep in the cold air, and eat your perishable food first if you think the storm might be a lengthy one. So even though it might be tempting to dive into the potato chips, it's a smarter move to go for the fruit, milk, and vegetables.

      If you're using a generator, make sure you aren't running it from your garage or inside your home, because they can produce deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Only run it from an open, ventilated space. And connect your appliances directly to the generator, not to your home wiring, or you could create a dangerous "back feed" into utility lines that could kill someone trying to get the power back on.

      Stocking up on flashlights and batteries can provide you with some much-needed light, especially during times that you need to look for items to clean and clear your pathways, as well as fix downed furnishings.

      Finally, power surges become more common during a power outage, and they can destroy your appliances. A good way to prevent this is to unplug all your appliances except one light (so you know when power is restored).

      Home-snow-stage-1024x6533. SHINGLES, SIDINGS, AND OUTDOOR FIXTURES

      Winter storms usually come with powerful wind gusts. This could potentially lead to shingles or siding blowing off your house. Damaged roofs and siding should be repaired by roofing and siding services immediately after the storm has blown over to prevent leaks. Bring any outside furniture and fixtures indoors so it doesn't blow away.

      4. FLOODS

      If your rain gutters aren't clean, ice dams can form and could flood your home. Make sure your gutters are clear and straight! Try to reinforce them so that the next time a powerful blizzard busts through your neighborhood, you wouldn't be left with a mini-hightide on your hands.

      ITEMS YOU SHOULD HAVE ON HAND

      supplies-snowIn addition to flashlights and batteries, having a car charger (provided you have a car) is also a good idea. Then you can always re-charge your phone for emergencies.

      A battery-powered radio is also a good winter storm purchase. It's a good way to keep track of power outages and storm conditions from the safety of your home. And when you've been without power for over a day - trust me - your local news stations will become as riveting as the latest "Serial" podcast.

      It may seem obvious, but having a solid supply of non-perishable food, water, and blankets on hand is very important. The Red Cross recommends at least a three-day-supply of both food and water per person. For water, the average person needs three quarts per day. A little extra water is advisable, though - for washing your hands, preparing food, and flushing your toilet in case the water is shut off.

      Without power, it could get very cold, very fast, and you'll need that extra can of tuna for sustenance. But make sure you have a simple can opener.

      Just don't try bravely walking to the grocers once a storm is going through. That's not only dumb, but also unpractically unsafe.

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